I hope you all had a lovely weekend, whether you celebrated Valentine's Day or not. Husband and I actually don't - we celebrate February 13th instead, because it is the anniversary of the night we met. this year we marked the occasion by hiking Elephant Mountain together and indulging in some tabletop Japanese barbecue. the weather this past week in Taipei has been gorgeous and sunny - pretty much perfect for a hike - and somehow I hadn't yet managed to drag him up that mountain.
my mind is pretty boggled to think it's been twelve years since that night on Beal Street, when two Michigan State freshmen met after a certain gentleman slipped down a flight of stairs thanks to the slushy, snowy weather. I don't think either of us could have predicted then what kinds of adventures life had in store for us. but eventually we ended up here. which is a pretty good place to be.
with all the anniversary and love business going on, it seemed like an opportune moment to answer some of your questions relating to Husband and I, and our relationship. first I want to clear up one thing that is often asked and for some reason I haven't shared: Husband's real name. it's Luke.
go ahead and do the arithmetic - our last name is Walker. take a moment if you need, but it probably makes a lot more sense now that we are both big Star Wars nerds right?
now that that's out of the way... I have more of your questions to answer below. I've combined and reworded a few things but hopefully stayed within the spirit of what was being asked. let me know if you have any more expat or travel questions down in the comments. and because I'm me, there's also some unrelated photos involved [from the gardens on Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown.] so, enjoy:
whose idea was it to move abroad?Luke had always talked about wanting to spend a few years teaching abroad - so I guess his idea originally. I was open to the concept, but pretty particular on where I thought I wanted to live. Taiwan was definitely not on my list. about a year after we were married though, I was getting really frustrated with my work and was stressed out and unhappy all the time. he was teaching in the Philadelphia public school system then, and was going to lose his job due to budget cuts. I wanted to leave and he couldn't stay - so we signed up for an international teaching job fair.
how did you decide on Taiwan?once we started looking at job openings, we realized that the most opportunities [and best cost of living to salary ratios] were located in Asia. Luke interviewed with several schools at the job fair. of the options available to us at the time we had to decide - Taiwan seemed like the best fit. in retrospect, it was a great choice we made. despite the occasional expat struggles, we are happy here. we've been able to pay off our debt, save for retirement, and travel the world.
what does your Husband teach?Luke is a Social Studies teacher at an international high school, which follows an American curriculum [as most of the students are applying to go to university in the US.] World History has been his main course for a while, though over the years he has covered everything under Social Studies from Economics to African American History. he has such a wide variety of knowledge - I am constantly surprised when he rattles off some in-depth information on a place we're traveling to or some situation I'd never heard of. and he's always wanting to learn more. I think this is the part where I'm supposed to brag about what a dedicated and amazing teacher he is, in addition to being a Fulbright scholar and holding a Master's of Education from an Ivy League university, right?
why didn't you decide to teach in Taiwan as well?I did consider becoming certified to teach when we moved abroad. but with the program being longer than our initial contract, it seemed silly to just dive in without knowing if I actually wanted to teach full time or how long we would stay abroad. I also thought about privately tutoring students or teaching English at a cram school [a place where kids go after regular school for English lessons.] those jobs are widely available here, and the reason why many English speakers move abroad.
I tested the educational waters by doing a lot of substitute teaching at our last school, for almost all grade levels 1-12. I also taught a non-academic blogging course for 2 hours per week [to some really great students!] and gave conversational English lessons to a few of the local teachers. but despite that, teaching isn't my passion. I'm lucky that Luke is supportive [and our situation financially viable] and I don't have to work just for the money.
how has moving abroad changed your relationship?I think moving abroad was the best thing that we've done for our marriage. I can say without doubt that our relationship is stronger now than ever. but it certainly wasn't easy. we had a lot of challenges to face: from adjusting to being a single-income household to culture shock. and all at the same time. this experience has changed both of us, and we've been lucky that as we grow as individuals we can still grow together.
being an expat can be isolating. yes, we've made friends here and do our best to keep in touch with family and those back in the states. but we had to learn how to rely on and support each other - through situations we'd never imagined. food poisoning. job hunting. scooter crashes. mysterious allergies. writing a book. grieving a family member while not being able to travel home. through these trials we might not have otherwise experienced, we've grown closer and stronger, and learned to be more honest with one another.
how do you survive traveling together?I think the most important thing is learning how to effectively communicate your needs. whether it's half an hour of alone time at the pool or a coffee break, you have to say what you want. your partner is not a mind reader. it also helps if you do your best to take care of those needs on your own - I always travel with snacks because I know I will be hungry. [and hunger leads to hanger, and no one wants to deal with that on vacation!]
our travel styles don't completely jive - I'm a spreadsheet-making planner and Luke is more "roll with it" - but over time we have found ways to work both into our trips. I know I need to speak up if there is something particular I have to do or see, but also try to leave room in the schedule for aimless wandering and spontaneous stops for ice cream. we also have come to accept it's ok not to spend every moment together. I don't mind if he wants to relax in the hotel and watch a movie while I go to the beach and take pictures. we both get to do what we want and everyone's happy.
when are you going to move home and have babies?mom, was this you? first I should say that those events won't necessarily happen in that order. when I first told people we were moving abroad, the question I was asked most was: are you going to have a baby? that concept was a pretty scary to me then. but my opinion has changed with time, and after meeting so many incredible expat parents and their amazing internationally-minded and multi-lingual children. having a baby while we are still living in Taiwan is definitely possible.
but as far as when we might move back to America - this is actually a pretty difficult question. Luke and I have obviously discussed this, at length and in depth. we definitely miss a lot of things and people from the states... but there are also a lot of great things about our life here. the best answer I can give is: when it's right for us. [whether that's before or after babies, only time will tell.]
phew. I hope you enjoyed this peek into our lives! and again, feel free to leave any other questions below for me to answer later on :)